Butt out! Connecticut River Stormwater Committee wants cigarette butts out of streams
Cigarette butts – either put aside or thrown on the ground from a full ashtray – that end up in streets or parking lots end up spilling into storm sewers where they flow into streams and rivers where they present a danger to birds, fish and other animals.
Connecticut River stormwater – a group made up of 20 local towns and the University of Massachusetts at Amherst – has launched a public awareness campaign. It will feature decals on municipal trucks bearing an image taken by Florida Audubon member Karen Mason showing a bird feeding her babies.
“Fish error cigarette butts for food. Birds take cigarette butts for food, ”said Patty Gambarini, senior environmental planner for the Pioneer Valley Planning Commission, which meets and does the administrative work for the watershed committee.
And of course, all the things that make cigarettes bad for people – nicotine and other substances – make them bad for wildlife, Gambarini said.
“We still see a lot of cigarette butts,” she says. “People who still smoke… just throw it away and don’t see it as litter.
A a single butt can contaminate between 500 and 1,000 gallons of water with compounds like nicotine and heavy metals, according to the press release. The filter is made from a non-biodegradable form of plastic called cellulose acetate, which deteriorates and disperses in the form of plastic microfibers.
The source of the cleansing of the sea will track the number of cigarette butts, e-cigarettes and vaping waste, said Stacey Lennard of the Connecticut River Conservancy and clean-up organizer.